PHILADELPHIA – The left tackle position is still too close to call, at least for the Eagles’ coaches. Or at least to what they’re admitting.
To the media watching practice, Jordan Mailata seems to have the edge over Andre Dillard after the first week of training camp.
It’s a battle far from won, for sure.
“Everybody's competing for a job, and I think those two guys are no different,” said Nick Sirianni prior to Saturday night’s fourth practice of training camp. “I know they are both embracing it, and I see them both playing at a good level right now. They can both be better.
“But I see them both playing at a good level right now and again, they just know what this program stands for: Connecting, competing, accountability, football IQ, and fundamentals. I just see them attacking that every single day.”
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The battle to determine a starter is about to ramp up to a whole other level on Tuesday. That is the day the Eagles will put pads on for the first time.
“With offensive linemen as far as that position and this whole game is played with those pads on,” said Sirianni, “so when we get those pads on, it's going to start to shake out and it will play itself out.”
Mailata and Dillard have taken turns with the first team at each practice. One gets all the reps with the ones on one day, the other gets all the first-team reps the next day.
There has been some separation during one-on-one battles.
Again, no pads so there’s not a lot of bull-rushing that takes place from the defensive ends going against either Mailata or Dillard.
Still, Derek Barnett has always given Dillard fits, and the defensive end continued to do so in the first two one-on-one sessions so far. Dillard, however, did beat Barnett once on Saturday night in that setting. It may have been a first.
Meanwhile, Mailata has held up well in reps against Josh Sweat.
“He’s just massive, athletic, and he’s getting better,” said Sweat. “I can’t just mosey on through. Now, it’s getting hard. We gotta stay on top of it because he’s getting better. We just challenge each other every day.
“A lot. I used to be able to just run around him like he wouldn’t even put his arms out. Now it’s like, he’s an NFL player.”
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Something else in Mailata’s favor, something Sirianni touched on when asked specifically about the former Australian rugby standout and a seventh-round draft pick in 2018.
“I think Jordan came back in phenomenal shape,” the coach said. “He had a target weight that he was trying to come back at and he came back at that weight. He came back lighter, he came back more fit and it's showing out there. And so he's just a big man that can move like a little man, right.”
That’s not to say Dillard isn’t in condition. He certainly looks like he is, and it’s important. Conditioning could ultimately be a tiebreaker in this contest.
“Going against those athletes that he's going against on the other side on the defensive line, he's going to have to be in the best shape of his life,” Sirianni said, speaking specifically of Mailata “I think right now he did come back - I've only known him for a short time, but he said to me, and the strength staff have said, he is in the best shape of his life.”
Neither Mailata nor Dillard have spoken to the media after the first week of camp.
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.